Western Samoans wear down slick and sophisticated French

Rugby League Western Samoa 28 France 22
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The Independent Online
Western Samoa booked their place in the final of the Halifax Student Rugby League World Cup by finally overpowering the French at the end of a gripping match at Warrington last night.

In a contest that presented a fascinating contrast in styles, it was the French who showed all the slickness and sophistication borne of having played regularly together.

They led no less than five times, the last 10 minutes from time, but the sheer strength and vigour of a Samoan side hurriedly put together from universities in New Zealand - for the good reason that there are none in Samoa - eventually wore them down.

The French, always capable, at this level and fielding players who have appeared for the national under-21s and even the full international side, first took the lead after three minutes.

Their loose forward Charles Giudicelli, a tireless worker who has stood out in this tournament for more than the fact of his blue dyed hair, went over from close range and Sylvian Crismonovitch, whose appearance in the 1979 World Cup must make him a very mature student by now, added the goal.

If the French relied on some delightfully crisp and inventive handling, the Samoan's strength lay in their formidable size and the way they forced the French back into their own quarter yielded an equaliser when their excellent scrum-half, Malingi Ioane, went in from acting-half-back.

Crismonovitch's penalty put France ahead again before Davey Fa'apito went over in the corner for the Samoans to give them a two point half time lead.

The balding Crismonovitch showed his experience with a kick through which he retrieved on the bounce to put the French in front once more, but two penalties from Longo Hepi again gave a narrow advantage to the Islanders.

When a sweeping cross field move saw Laurent Nicholas go over it looked as though France's extra polish was going to see them into the final.

Tom Malu barged over to snatch the lead again and then France duly snatched it back when their hooker Stephane Tena, scooped up a ball from his ankles to scoop over.

Two tries in the last seven minutes determined that it would be Polynesian power that won the day, Malu flipping the ball up for Brett Pitman and then Joseph Alaimoana burrowing his way across the line.

The popular Samoans, who had opened proceedings by singing their national anthem, performed a victory Haka with a justifiable air of triumph.

WESTERN SAMOA: Mamoe; S Murray, Mareko, Saumolia, Fa'apito, L Hepi, Ioane, Ailao, Alaimoana, Fatuleai, J Hepi, Malu, Loau. Substitutes: Siolo, Fiso, Pitman, M Murray.

FRANCE: Nicolas, Van Brussel, Cazemajou, Foulquier, Ramondou, Crismanovitch, Rostang, Garnier, Tena, Clara, Stefanuto, Durand, Giudicelli. Substitutes: Liottier, Dupuy, Ossard, Rodriguez.

Referee: A Burke (England).